Kaitlyn has one successful week of first grade under her belt. With the exception of a few days of rain, which kept her off the playground, Kaitlyn had a great week. She is off to a good start for sure.
We got a nice email from her teacher on the first day, and I think Amber and I were both hopeful that Kaitlyn would build on what her teacher said about her and have a great year. Judging by her first weekly progress report, she is well on her way!
Friday, we got our first weekly newsletter from Kaitlyn’s teacher. It basically outlined the first week and what the class goals are for the year. Amber and I each chuckled when we read the following, regarding the expectation for where the class is as far as reading is concerned:
Our reading program in first grade is called Imagine It!. We will start off the year reviewing the sounds and quickly move into blending words. Your child will bring home books from the program throughout the year. These books are to be kept at home for your child to practice reading. They will get progressively more difficult as the year goes on. You should find 2 of these books in your child’s folder today.
Kaitlyn loves to read, and she should not have much of an issue in meeting the standard for the class. She is also supposed to read at least 20 minutes per night, and should be able to accomplish that without much trouble. If her ITBS scores are any indication, Kaitlyn is most likely ahead of most of her classmates in reading.
In math, there are also expectations that we feel Kaitlyn has already exceeded:
In Math, we will be covering many concepts including addition, subtraction, and measurement to name a few.
Thanks to her math app on the iPad, she is already pretty good at both addition and subtraction. When we moved, Kaitlyn was even working on her measuring skills. Again, her ITBS scores have established a nice foundation of what her teacher can expect out of her, and what we can expect out of her as well.
Kaitlyn just really loves going to school. She has a love of learning that Amber and I realize we have a duty to cultivate and allow to grow even stronger. We constantly encourage her to learn every chance she can, and she does exactly that. As much as she loves school, I know that she wants today to go by fast. This evening, we are going to see the newest addition to the Sprague family, and Kaitlyn is very excited. Last night, she said that she could not wait to give little Lucy a “good afternoon tickle,” and to teach her so many things. She also said that Lucy is going to be her best girl friend and she wants to do everything with her. I would classify that approach as also “off to a good start,” because for the entire time we have known them, Kaitlyn has been the little girl who the Sprague boys paid constant attention to; now, she will have to share, and she seems perfectly ok about it.
Everyone who reads this knows that I have been waiting a long time for the results of Kaitlyn’s Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS) that she took in April (here, here, here, and here). You might also remember that I am not a big fan of this type of testing, or the FCAT, and only subject Kaitlyn to them because it is required that she take them. And since today was her last day of school, included with her report card were the results of her tests.
If you thought that I was beaming with pride about her final report card, just wait a minute and keep reading.
Kaitlyn’s Core Total, which describes her total achievement on the tests was an 80. That placed her in the 80th percentile nationally, meaning she scored higher than 80% of kindergarten students in the country. Wow!
Her math total was a 77. Not too shabby in my book. Kaitlyn worked a lot on her math at home during the school year, so this is a great number.
She did score below the national average (50th percentile) on vocabulary, scoring a 42. Which if you read on, makes no sense.
Her reading words, reading comprehension, reading total, and word analysis all scored at a 99. Her overall language score was a 99. In those areas, Kaitlyn scored higher than 99% of all kindergarten kids in the country.
In the explanation area, it is noted that “two areas that contribute to reading comprehension are vocabulary and listening.” Wait, vocabulary plays a vital role in reading comprehension? Then how does a 42 in vocabulary help Kaitlyn score a 99 in comprehension? It is almost like the explanation wants us to know that the test is ridiculous. Doesn’t one need a strong vocabulary to be able to read at a higher level than 99% of students in the same grade?
Kaitlyn proved herself to be an excellent student this year, and also to be a very good test taker. For a child with Asperger’s that struggles with focusing, she blew those tests out of the water.
With statewide FCAT scores released last week, I thought it may be a good time to give a quick update on some of the testing/computerized work Kaitlyn is subjected to. First, a note about the FCAT (which, thankfully, Kaitlyn will not have to endure for a few more years): close to 80% of students statewide failed the test this year with the new, updated test and tougher standards. The state Board of Education quickly adjusted the passing level; I didn’t know that these tests were graded on a “curve.”
Anyway, I emailed Kaitlyn’s teacher to get an update on her SuccessMaker scores, which we had not gotten since October. It seems the district started a new version last month, so Kaitlyn’s score was low. Her teacher confirmed that it was not an accurate reflection of her reading ability. Her FAIR level was a 1.5, about midway through 1st grade in reading, which is closer her reading level. Her teacher says that Kaitlyn would be even higher if she slowed down when she reads. She tends to skip words, changing the meaning of the passages she is reading (I tend to do that also).
Academically, she is doing great. She needs to slow down make sure she completes each activity. We will be getting her ITBS scores after school ends next week, and that should be interesting.
This week has been one that has had plenty of things that have gotten under my skin. I’ve written some about how much I love that Kaitlyn had to take a standardized test all week (here, here, here, and here). Then there was the dad in New Jersey that posted the audio of his autistic son being berated by his teacher (the teacher and at least one aide made fun of him, taunted him, and called him a “bastard”). I would write about that, but I would be unable to use very many nice words, so I will pass, but you can watch and listen and make your own judgements.
Other than the testing, the thing that got me most revved up this week was an article in the New York Post by Allen Frances about what he feels is the “overdiagnosis of autism.” Mr. Frances was part of the team that developed the DSM-IV, and he feels that more people are obtaining an autism diagnosis out of convenience. Because having a child with an autism diagnosis is convenient for parents. I know it has been a blast for us, what with battling the school district for almost four months just to get them to open their eyes.
Maybe he means it is convenient for families to get a diagnosis so we can spend more on services. Because as parents of a child with autism, we are swimming in cash and were looking for places to spend it. Or maybe he means that the diagnosis is a convenient way for us to get attention when we are out in public and Kaitlyn melts down, and people shoot nasty looks at Amber and I like we are horrible parents. Could he mean convenient in the sense that it has been really easy and convenient to explain our parenting methods to people, feeling like we somehow have to justify our discipline tactics or our reward methods (news flash, we don’t have to justify anything to anybody. As Kaitlyn’s parents, we will set the course for her, and have been doing a fine job, if I do say so myself.)?
Mr. Frances alludes to the uptick in people getting an autism diagnosis as a “false epidemic,” or a fad. Mr. Frances, Kaitlyn’s Asperger’s is not a fad. Bell bottoms and skinny jeans are fads. Autism is not a fad. Autism will not go away for us when something else becomes more convenient in your eyes.
I wonder if I should ask Mr. Frances his advice on the most convenient way for us to tell Kaitlyn about her Asperger’s. I mean, do we just tell her that it is a fad? That it does not matter? I don’t think so. I won’t be trying to get in touch with him at all on that one.
I knew when Kaitlyn said that just before we left for school this morning that this week’s testing is starting to wear her out. Today marks day three of ITBS testing, the math section.
If Monday and Tuesday are any indication, Kaitlyn will be flat-out exhausted when she gets home from school today. Monday, she looked like she had not slept in weeks; her eyes were puffy and she just looked plain tired. Yesterday was more of the same.
But she did have a nice diversion after school yesterday. Instead of coming home, we had a “special surprise” in store for her, to help get her mind off of school. Amber took her over to the Sprague house so that she could play with her “best friends.” They were over there for a few hours of much needed play time and time for Kaitlyn to not worry about school and testing.
This morning, however, the stress was clearly back. In addition to her long day remark, she expressed herself in what I think is part of her coping mechanism. Every morning on the way to school, she has a snack in the car. Today, after she finished her snack, she was quieter than usual, and I found out that the reason why was that she was chewing on a piece of the wrapper (she did not have the entire thing in her mouth and it was intact when it went into the garbage bag). I have observed recently that when she becomes stressed or worked up or agitated, her fingers or some other object head toward her mouth. It must be a soothing thing for her.
I imagine that Kaitlyn is not the only kindergarten student having a stressful week, and that makes me question even more the point of testing kindergarten students. Five and six year old kids are too young for this type of pressure and stress.